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Australia facing "more frequent and intense" natural disasters: royal commission

(Xinhua)    16:18, September 01, 2020

CANBERRA, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- A landmark inquiry into Australian bushfires has warned that the nation is facing more frequent and more intense natural disasters.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangement, which was established in response to the devastating "Black Summer" bushfires, published its interim report on Monday, warning of "cascading, concurrent and compounding" natural disasters.

"Over the coming decades, Australia is likely to experience more frequent and intense natural disasters," the report said.

It found that the national bushfire warning system, which was put in place in 2009, was not used consistently around the country and used potentially confusing terms like "watch and act."

It identified a new national fire danger rating system, which has been in development since 2016, as a "matter of priority" to respond to the growing threat.

"For such a critical issue, this work has taken too long and is an example of the need for a clear decision-making process and to elevate matters to national leaders where required," the report said.

"The work on the Australian warning system should be finished as a priority."

The commission heard evidence in May that the smoke from the Black Summer bushfires was responsible for estimated nearly 450 deaths and affected 80 percent of the population, according to The Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison established the inquiry in February, saying it would be "focused on practical action that has a direct link to making Australians safer."

Responding to the interim report, Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud agreed that Australia needed better national coordination of emergency responses.

"What the report says is what we've dealt with isn't unprecedented, it means it's what we're going to have to deal with into the future," he told reporters.

"What it's telling us is there needs to be a more nationally coordinated approach."

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